Shamans and mystics have been teaching for thousands of years that there is an Awareness greater than ourselves. Dreaming, perhaps especially lucid dreaming, connects us to this larger Awareness and helps us to move what was hidden or unconscious in our lives up into the light of our personal conscious awareness and then beyond, thus giving us the ability to connect with the sacred and the numinous. When we are able to be aware of this Awareness (a sort of meta-level) we then know deep in our bodies and our souls that we are connected across time and space and perhaps many dimensions of being. Dreams can be portals to connect us with the divine – up to or over the thresholds of the worlds of “above” and the worlds of “below.”
Kabbalah teaches us “As above, so below,” and the Tree of Life in kabbalist tradition depicts a tree with two sets of roots– one set reaching down into the earth, and the other reaching up to the heavens. Dream about trees? Lucidly become the tree – the Dryad, the Nymph, the Green Man, the Rising Sap shivering up through the roots and trunk and branches, the Tree of Knowledge or the Tree of Life itself in the Garden. (It was never completely clear if this was one tree or two in the Garden of Eden, so your experience of it is as true anyone’s!) Many shamanic and active imagination dream journeys begin with approaching the tree and using it to journey on, much as Jacob did with his ladder that had its roots both on earth and in heaven. We are told that the angels traveled up and down this ladder as Jacob dreamed his dream of connecting with the Divine.
The mystical school of Kabbalah encompasses the study of creation, of the Divine, of the cosmos, and on a personal level is it about the journey of our Soul. It has been said that mystics of all religions often find more in common with each other than they may find with their parent tradition. As lucid dreamers, we are part of this great tradition of mystics. We find common themes across eastern and western wisdom schools of an experiential connection with the Divine, of parts within unity, and of essential unknowingness. In our lucid dreams we can tap into this larger Awareness that Jung also used as source, for he drew some of his own conceptualizations from this deep well. His mystical themes trace their arc from Alchemy though Gnosticism, through the Chinese “Golden Flower,” and find their oldest roots in Kabbalah. The awareness behind the dream, both in lucid dreaming and non-lucid dreaming invites us to connect with the Source of all.
I experience this frission of recognition in W.I.L.D. (Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming) dreams as well as the spontaneous ones. In both the liminal zones of the hypnopompic layer and inside of the depths of deep REM sleep, at times I am able to engage with that sense of Presence, the great Wisdom that is larger than our individual lives. This is the awareness I can sometimes feel animating my waking, sleeping, and everything-in-between states of dreaming. When I tap into this awareness, I experience it as Eugene Gendlin describes felt sense, a full-bodied-more-than-words knowing that tingles in my fingers and in my soul. Occasionally I get actual words, mostly from my dad who passed over 12 years ago. When he shows up, he talks to me so clearly from the other side that I can hear the timbre of his voice echoing in my head space, right between my ears. Mostly though, I touch into this larger awareness animating the dream at an embodied soul level. I often experience it as an internal tingle, or a wave, or a temperature change.
Once I became lucid in a dream where I was swimming up from a great depth towards the light. I was conscious in the dream that I was not sure that I had enough air in my lungs to last until I could get my head above water (surely there was a waking life layer to explore here too!), and began swimming with all my might to get to the surface, to break free into the light I could clearly see above the water so I would not drown. As I became lucidly aware that I was dreaming, a great peace came over me with the thought, “I have all the time in the world, since there is no time here.” I also had the thought, “Breath and spirit are the same word in Hebrew (neshama). And since I know that I am not dead, that my soul (neshama) is still in my body, then my breath is in my body too.” With this immensely comforting response from some greater Awareness I could then swim easily up to the surface and breathe air again. The super-awareness behind this dream came both from inside and outside of myself. At that moment, the boundary between myself on this side of corporal and embodied life, and the other side of non-corporal and unembodied spirit life was dissolved.
The word Kabbalah itself means “received knowledge.” In my book “Modern Dreamwork: New Tools for Decoding Your Soul’s Wisdom”, I describe four layers of dreamwork with which one can explore the dream as one would read Torah; using ever deepening layers of inquiry. These four layers take us from 1.) the dream story line itself, 2.) through the first hinted at associations, 3.) to the interactions we take with the dream and the characters and the plotlines that bring changes to the original dream, and finally 4.) to the layer of the numinous, the soul, the transpersonal that may have meaning not only for us but for our world as well. The lucid state may involve any or all of these layers.
At this time of our collective disrupted lives and disrupted sleep, may we find the numinous in our dreams as a comfort and a source of healing for our waking and sleeping selves and world.
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